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Unit 5

Human Impact on the Environment

Natural Resource Any natural material that is used by humans, such as air, soil, minerals, water, petroleum, plants, and animals.
Renewable Resource Can be replaced at the same rate it is consumed. Examples include plants and freshwater.
Inexhaustible Resource A resource that can never be used up. Examples include solar energy and wind.
Nonrenewable Resource Forms at a rate that is much slower than the rate at which it is consumed. Examples include fossil fuels, rocks, minerals, and metals.
Fossil Fuel A nonrenewable resource formed from the buried remains of plants and animals. This resource can take millions of years to form. It is burned as an energy resource. When burned, this resource can release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Material Resource A natural resource that is used to create objects, or to be consumed by humans. Examples include wood for construction, cotton for clothes, water for drinking, and vegetables for food.
Energy Resource A natural resource that is used to generate energy or power. Examples include wood for a bonfire, fossil fuels, wind for windmills, and solar power.
Urbanization The growth of urban areas (cities). Replaces natural land areas with buildings, parking lots, and roads.
Land Degradation The process by which human activities and natural processes damage land to the point where it can no longer support the local ecosystem. The Dust Bowl during the Great Depression was an example of this.
Desertification The process by which land becomes more desertlike and unable to support life. Poor farming methods and overgrazing by livestock can cause this.
Deforestation The removal of trees and other vegetation from an area. Logging for wood, mining for minerals, and urbanization can cause this to happen. It can result in soil erosion.
Water Pollution Waste or other materials are added to water so that it is harmful to organisms that live in or use the water.
Point-Source Pollution Water pollution that comes from one specific site.
Nonpoint-SourcePollution Water pollution that comes from many small sources.
Thermal Pollution The heating of a water source as a result of human activities. This can be harmful to organisms that live in or use the water.
Eutrophication An increase in the amount of nutrients in water. The extra nutrients cause algae to multiply, which ultimately reduces oxygen levels in the water to create "dead zones."
Greenhouse Effect Certain gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat and insulate earth's surface.
Air Pollution The contamination of the atmosphere by pollutants from human and natural sources.
Particulate A tiny particle of a solid that is suspended in the air. This is one type of air pollution.
Smog This pollutant is formed when ground-level ozone and vehicle exhaust react in the presence of sunlight.
Acid Precipitation Rain, sleet, or snow that contains acids from air pollution.
Air Quality Measuring how clean or polluted the air is.
Conservation The wise use of natural resources. Examples include taking short showers, turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth, and turning off lights when you leave the room.
Stewardship The careful and responsible management of a resource. Examples include passing laws that prohibit littering.
Alternative Energy Sources Sources of energy that can be used instead of using fossil fuels. They include wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectricity, and nuclear energy.
Global Warming Also known as Climate Change. This occurs when humans burn fossil fuels and release extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This increases the greenhouse effect, making Earth's surface warmer.